Home | Search Serendip
Serendip
20th Century Scarlet Letter Forum

20th Century Scarlet Letter Forum


Comments are posted in the order in which they are received, with earlier postings appearing first below on this page. To see the latest postings, click on "Go to last comment" below.

Go to last comment

20th Century Scarlet Letter
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2003-02-27 14:51:58 :
Link to this Comment: 4866

Welcome to this forum, where you are invited to post your thoughts/reactions to the range of 20th c. versions of The Scarlet Letter we'll be exploring: an episode from Sex and the City about out-of-wedlock birth, a news report about "Monicagate," and Suzan Lori-Parks' contemporary riff on the novel, a play called "In the Blood"--

or whatever else it is that we choose to move us (and Hawthorne) into modern times...


course commentary
Name: Maggie
Date: //2003-03-04 14:03:35 :
Link to this Comment: 4939

I couldn't help but feel disappointed after today's class. Something wasn't working... It seemed like people were either reluctant to talk or had little thoughts to share about what we were discussing. When Anne is in the classroom with us, there tends to be a little bit more involvement in the discussion, but it feels like even she has a difficult time getting answers. Are the people leading the groups not asking the right questions? Are we picking the wrong (in today's case) modern perspectives to discuss? Is this group just quiet? Are we sick of talking about The Scarlet Letter? Is it too difficult to transpose puritan society to today? The other student-led groups have occasionly had similar problems with getting people to talk... I'd like to figure out why, especially if the rest of the semester will be student-led.


another comparison?
Name: kathy
Date: //2003-03-04 19:34:41 :
Link to this Comment: 4943

After class, I thought of another (somewhat) modern example of the scarlet letter. In the movie Chicago (I'm guessing in the musical too), the main character has an affair and murders her lover. Although she bears a scarlet letter in the public eye, for adultry and murder, it seems she feels no remorse for the sin and proceeds to capitalize on the fame that proceeds her. In this case, she is left to carry the scarlet letter alone, as Hester did, because her lover is dead. Also, when it is discovered she might be pregnant, the court has more sympathy for her, as the Puritans probably did with Hester and Pearl, and her sin almost makes her a victim. So, I just thought there were some similarities, but obviously many differences, considering the puritan society did not proceed into the 1920s.
In response to Maggie's post, I'm not sure what has happened to our group discussions lately, but it could possibly be that we have spent a lot of time on the dominant theme of the book and are looking to move on? Hopefully, we can get a little more out of Hawthorne and his approach through the short stories, though.


Today's Class
Name: Margaret R
Date: //2003-03-04 20:45:26 :
Link to this Comment: 4944

Today in class it did seem a bit slow and quiet...I don't feel like it is always like this though.
One idea that we began to discuss towards the end of class seemed very interesting though. The idea of Monica Lewinsky being the Dimmsdale. She did come out with the truth, she was not the adulterer, she didn't, however, feel much guilt for her actions. But, why did we automatically want to compare her to Hester, because she is a woman?? Monica, to me, seemed more like the pathetic character who suffered for her actions, much like Dimmsdale. Clinton seemed to wear a type of "A" and he still achieved other goals as president, like Hester in the novel.


For Thursday's Class!
Name: Margaret
Date: //2003-03-04 20:54:37 :
Link to this Comment: 4945

Hey guys-
Please read these three works for thursday. Her are the links: etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/HawYoun.html
etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/HawMini.html
etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/HawAlic.html



Name: Samantha D
Date: //2003-03-05 17:29:23 :
Link to this Comment: 4951

In response to Maggie's posting... I have also noticed the decline in participation, emotion, and discussion in our most recent classes. It was especially evident in our last class on Tuesday. I think that we have all noted this change in our classroom dynamics, and I think it's unfortunate that we can't stimulate conversation about this book, but I really do believe its just this book. Although adultery and sin are seemingly universally interesting, and age old topics of conversation, I think that the puritanical influences/setting of this book make it hard for us to really get invested in it. Personally, I had an extremely hard time imagining the kind of sadistic logic that seems to dominate each character in The Scarlet Letter. I'm sure that once we move on to some different Hawthorne stories our classroom will be restored to a more opinionated one. Basically, I noted this change as well, but I'm not really that concerned about it.
Even though our classes have been unusually mellow lately, I think that our discussion about Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton had us headed in a good direction. We had alot of thoughts relating this situation to the book, but I think what was most interesting was Maggie's comment noting that when making this comparison, we automatically link Ms. Lewinsky with Hester, even though Hester's situation was more comparable to Bill Clinton's. I think that this aspect of our conversation was really a reflection of some of the barriers that we are not as far past as we would like to think. Even now, our class was constrained by gender roles and society's norms for men and women. Until Maggie brought this up I did not consider Bill Clinton to be in a similar situation to Hester, I automatically associated her with Monica Lewinsky despite their opposite roles in their respective affairs.


tues discussion
Name: ngoc
Date: //2003-03-05 18:09:56 :
Link to this Comment: 4952

i found the discussion last tues quite intriguing...especially when someone mention an observation about the switching male and female roles in the stories... unlike what we often assume, the women in the story, although they are marked/bear great pains/guilts/ect, the men seem to be much worse off with their experience. i wonder why...and what does this mean?


Too much Scarlet!
Name: Jillian
Date: //2003-03-05 20:53:41 :
Link to this Comment: 4957

I agree with Samantha, that conversation in class has been lacking because of the book. I really think we exhausted conversation about The Scarlet Letter and believe that tomorrow's class will run much better because we will have new material to discuss.
After last class, I've begun to wonder if The Scarlet Letter is at all translatable into modern terms. Neither Sex and the City nor the Clinton/Lewinsky case really resonated (for me) with the themes in TSL. The world has changed drastically since Puritan times, so I think its hard to find similar situations in the 21st century.


Tuesday
Name: Taka Kawan
Date: //2003-03-06 14:53:23 :
Link to this Comment: 4973

The discussion we had about Hilary Clinton reminded me of the discussion about marriage we had earlier in this book. I agree with the idea that marriage is a contract on a sheet of paper, and the reason people make this contract is that they can obtain certain benefits from their spouse. I believe this give-and-take relationship has been consistent both in the days of Scarlet Letter and present; by committing oneself to the other, people in Colonial period received emotional security and comfort, or "faith", whereas people today may focus on more "practical" benefits, such as financial backup, social position, political power, etc. The marriage between Mr. and Mrs. Clinton was solely dedicated on this premise. Hilary needed her husband to achieve her career goal, and by "accepting" her husband's all the affairs, she gained more appreciation from the public. Bill Clinton, also didn't want to terminate "his" marriage, because she was probably a good politician and efficient in his career, and most of all he didn't want to hurt his representation by divorcing. After all, this marriage may be another "ideal" form of relationship between husband and wife, and because they were the "representative" of the United States, I guess that it had an impact on the notion of relationship between man and women.


Thursday Class
Name: Taka Kawan
Date: //2003-03-06 15:45:08 :
Link to this Comment: 4975

What I have been experiencing with Hawthorne's story is the sudden introduction of his idea, such as morality, sin, guilt, evil, etc. After I finished reading the Scarlet Letter, I loop back to the very first page of the story, asking "what is moral?" He keeps on dragging these topics unrevealed throughout the novel, and I had hard time fully understanding what is going on. In the short stories we discussed today, I thought that they were sort of "summarizing" the Scarlet Letter by dealing with similar topics, and I found it much easier to get through (because it was shorter!), but still not sure if I digested them.
Whatever the sin is, I thought the discussion of the minister's influence on the society was interesting. The minister gained power in the society by showing he possessed sin, but not revealing every detail (as Maggie said in the class, partial revelation of the matter worked.) The reason why he gained power in the society was that, people respected his act of recognition of sin by presenting only the fact that he possessed it; if people knew more details, they might focus on the details themselves more, not his act. I was thinking that this can be the reason for Jimmy Carter's retention of his political power even after his presidency, since he admitted his "sin" and presented to the public, but not in details (like in Clinton's case). Also, this public disclosure of the celebrity's affair may had a beneficial impact on the American society; encouraging the self-recognition of sin and showing that even the president commits these affairs, would unite the Christian society stronger as a whole.


frustrations with the web forum
Name: Nancy
Date: //2003-03-06 16:28:22 :
Link to this Comment: 4976

I think I am a little disappointed by the past few postings. Not so much that everyone thinks class is a little draggy or that getting people to contribute is like pulling teeth (i understand that feeling), but I wish someone would have started a conversation about that in class during the past week! To me, that's the beauty of a course like this-- if we dont like how things are going, we can change them! It's a difficult dynamic to get used to, having a student run class. I think (going back to the original classroom vs. the playground analogy) we have all been taught that you speak up and answer questions in class in order to win points with the teacher, and this setting is completely different from that. Anne definitely is a catalyst for conversation, but only because she doesn't let people get away with expressing their opinions without explaining them. Like today, when Margaret said she thought an aspect of one of the stories was 'interesting'-- if we had all smiled and nodded, we would have learned nothing, but when Anne made her explain what was so interesting, we suddenly had plenty to talk about. I think we can do this!
I guess i just feel frustrated because the web forum is supposed to be an extension of the ideas we have in class, but it is ineffective if we all express the same thing in print, but never all together when changes could happen.


Post 20th Century Scarlet Letter
Name: Monica Loc
Date: //2003-03-07 02:26:24 :
Link to this Comment: 4982

The discussions brought up in class this week from Maggie and Nancy's presentation of a clip of Sex and the City to the Monica Lewinsky trial and Margaret and Ngoc's discussion on Hawthorne's short stories have been interesting and informing. The more we analyze Hawthorne and relate issues of todays society to the books plot and environment,I begin to see the whole picture and everything seems to be clearer. In the discussion today when we were talking about situations where we felt guilty, Margaret mentioned that Taka said he felt better about feeling guilt knowing that other people were feeling guilty about something as well. I agree with Taka's statement because when I feel guilty about something I did and I know that someone else has some feeling of guilt towards something they did, I feel better. This is because I am not the only one feeling this way and it does provide some comfort. I see this somehow relating to Chillingworth because although he is causing the guilt Hester and Dimmesdale feels, he is comforted by this aspect and maybe it is because he feels guilty about something as well. This is a thought that I just had today while thinking about guilt. When we watched the clips from Sex and the City, I found the discussion on the representations of the women in the show insightful to comparing the roles of the characters in the book. I thought that letting us watch that clip was a great idea especially for exploring the modern scarlet letter.


scarlet letter & short stories
Name: ngoc
Date: //2003-03-07 11:43:19 :
Link to this Comment: 4985

after reading the scarlet and short stories i notice...

1) death seems to be a very prominent solution / a salvation for those who sinned...and yet the sin does not die w/ the sinner... when these sins are remembered... do we remember it the same way say we remember history?

2) masculinity: in most of the readings, individuals who suffered most...are male characters... there are two interesting questions : what does it shows about the individual? does his sufferring symbolizes his weakness...and there he's "un-masculine"? or does show that he is strong...and have taken on the responsibility to punish himself...


wow....
Name: Nicole Mar
Date: //2003-03-13 11:53:25 :
Link to this Comment: 5007

so i am not the only one that noticed something was up in the scarlet letter discussion group. like i talked about in my mid-term comments (forum #2 i think) i have noticed that it seems like the blind are leading the blind in this class. I think that we are all trying to have good discussions about this novel but i think that there are only so many things to think about in here. I think that our main problem was that we have a small group and relatively small book to discuss that has just a couple important themes. i hope discussions will be better when we are back in the large group again and we have a new text to examine. Meanwhile - Maggie and Nancy - i think you guys did a good job during your discussion! The topics were interesting and we did eventually have a decent discussion - i thnk that the Scarlet Letter Readers are just a little burnt out, that's all!


"In the Blood"
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2003-03-13 13:43:48 :
Link to this Comment: 5008

I've just put on reserve, and also in campus mail (and will send home mail to Jamie, Jill, Mary Claire and Sam, if you send addressess) copies of Suzan-Lori Parks' play, In the Blood, which we will be performing together in class on Tuesday, March 18th. Please read the play before you come, think about its connections w/ The Scarlet Letter, the degree to which you think the riff works, and doesn't...where it surprises you. How you might have written (could still write?) a contemporary version--?
Anne


The Language of Peace?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2003-03-17 16:18:39 :
Link to this Comment: 5027

I had posted this message @ The Place of the U.S. in the World Community but wanted to be sure that you saw it here, as my understanding of a "contemporary" version of The Scarlet Letter:

Franklin Roosevelt said, "All we have to fear is fear itself." In my Meeting last week, someone said something even better--because more hopeful, and more action-oriented:

"All we have to fear is...

the lack of creativity."

I'm a Quaker, and/but when "There is No Way to Peace, Peace Is the Way" signs went up downtown, then outside my own Meeting in Radnor, I was conflicted: I think the language of assertion (of certitude, of declaration, of dogmatism) is too often the language of war-making; it is the language of question-asking which, for me, constitutes the language of peace ...

& I have been trying very hard, since September 11th, to use "the language of peace," to try out what that sounds like, and see what effect it has.

During Meeting for Worship yesterday morning, the messages were once again about this difficult dance between "conviction" and "openness"--how to take a stand for what we believe in, w/out shutting off conversation w/, and learning from, people w/ whom we disagree. It took that worship session to get me to sign the pledge that Jane and Jim had sent 'round to the faculty a few days before, to realize that (as Jim said in an e-mail to me later), "this is not an oath, but a declaration of action. For me, oaths are to external bodies, and I only take oaths to myself, but pledges, like the AFSC Pledge of Resistance, is a declaration of intention. "

Quakers eschew oaths, since we try to tell the truth equally in all situations (rather than promising to do so particularly in particular situations, such as in court). But, for the reasons Jim describes, we do make pledges...

...and so I join the pledge to spend my first class, after we go to war, talking about WHY we have done so, inviting my students to think about ways in which our doing so harkens back to the either-or judgments and Puritanical retributions of Chillingworth (in The Scarlet Letter, which we are reading in one of my classes) as well as to the monomania of Ahab (in Moby-Dick, which we're reading in another):

The White Whale swam before him as the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them, till they are left living on with half a heart and half a lung. That intangible malignity which has been from the beginning; to whose dominion even the modern Christians ascribe one-half of the worlds; which the ancient Ophites of the east reverenced in their statue devil; -- Ahab did not fall down and worship it like them; but deliriously transferring its idea to the abhorred white whale, he pitted himself, all mutilated, against it. All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, where visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick. He piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart's shell upon it. (Chapter 41)

(If you're still reading), I also want to make sure that everyone knows about the work of The American Friends Service Committee, which has been engaged for decades in activities for peace and reconciliation. You'll find on their website a range of ways in which you can act, from making the Iraq peace pledge to assembling hygiene kits--as well as a range of activist resources (posters, brochures, fact sheets) that you can use for your own local organizing. You'll also find there the words of Pope John Paul II:

"Opting for peace does not mean a passive acquiescence to evil or compromise of principle. Building peace requires creative and courageous action. "

Anne Dalke


in the blood
Name: ngoc
Date: //2003-03-17 16:42:43 :
Link to this Comment: 5031

i enjoy the play more then i expected...really love the humor and the symbolic characters/roles. i am not sure if i understand the ending... what significance does it made ending it that way...better or worse than the novel? it will also be interesting for us to explore the meanings/roles of the children.


"How we're doing"
Name: Nancy
Date: //2003-03-17 20:34:01 :
Link to this Comment: 5035

I know this is the wrong place to post this, but either i am crazy, or the forum for this is hidden away.
So how are we doing so far? I think I pre-empted this with my last posting. I definitely love the theory of the class, but it definitely takes some extra (but well worth it) initiative. I think the forum is a great place to start/continue class discussion, but we have to bring it full circle-- back into the classroom when we can all discuss.
As far as the lull in topics, I think it is pretty difficult to learn how to question each other without offending anyone. One of the main aspects of class that I enjoy is hearing what people really think-- that is, what they say when they are questionned about their statements. This is when people really seem to be thinking on their toes and it seem the less perfectly thought out something is, the more we can use it to faciliatate further discussion. Anne, when you are around this is easier. You are the
teacher and it is your job to ask us these questions, but I think asking each other these sorts of things upsets the power balance a little more (or a lot more). Like, 'why is this person acting like a teacher, this is condescending''. This is just something that has to be adjusted to, I think.
I am really enjoying the openness of the course so far, especially in contrast with last semester. I feel like during the Sex class, we really were exploring uncharted territory, and our experiences always had a certain air of discovery to them. This semester, since these books have sometimes seemed 'cliched', 'dated' , etc, we have had the struggle of how to make them relevant, and so far we have succeeded. This could easily be the type of course where students read literature just so they could understand the lecture the next day and write white-bread lit crit essays. Hooray for the course, for being creative, hands-on and (most importantly) completely encouraging of creativity.


movie notice
Name: Maggie
Date: //2003-03-18 07:42:45 :
Link to this Comment: 5051

Hey- I just wanted to let everyone know that there is a new movie out, a Mexican film, called El Crimen del Padre Amaro, or The Crime of Father Amaro. It's a story about a young priest who falls in love with a 16 year old girl in his new church. I think- although I haven't seen it yet- that the priest helps the girl get an abortion. The film was very controversial in Mexico and the Catholic church tried to ban it... Anyhow, it sounded like a contemporary version of The Scarlet Letter, as well as a good movie.


Another play by Suzan-Lori Parks
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: //2003-03-24 00:43:55 :
Link to this Comment: 5142

In last Sunday's (3/16/03) NYTimes there was an article about the newest play by Suzan-Lori Parks, also a riff on The Scarlet Letter:

In newspapers, the title will be "...A." Where the blank is, you can supply a term for sexual intercourse if you want....The play...set in a dystopia of the future, a former colony, is about an abortionist, Hester...who tries to win her imprisoned son's freedom...."I'm deep into deep trangression," Ms. Parks explained, referring to her unprintable title and her dark subject matter....In "...A" as in "In the Blood," Hester is an allusion to Hawthrone's Hester Prynne....Like Hawthorne's Hester, Ms. Parks' Hester is an outsider, heroic, indomitable. In "...A" she is branded with an "A:" because she undertakes a task regarded as vile by the community--she performs abortions. But it is a necesary task, and the "A" marks her so that clients can find her. Still, Ms.Parks dismisses the Hawthorne reference. "I only read the book once, just so I could riff on it," she said.


how i like it
Name: t-mac
Date: //2005-04-26 12:42:22 :
Link to this Comment: 14877

i dont


This book is :
Name: Mike
Date: //2005-04-27 12:50:15 :
Link to this Comment: 14891

In this book it is very cool and is not to bad for reading it gets good around 12 it is a good book if you like hiding find out in the end type story